New Delhi: Government on Wednesday said it will explore all options to increase import of crude oil from Iran within the framework of UN sanctions.
"We are exploring the possibility within the overall UN sanctions. Without violating the sanctions to the extent that we can push oil import from Iran, that is being explored by the Oil Ministry," Economic Affairs Secretary Arvind Mayaram told reporters here.
India, which paid about USD 144.29 billion last fiscal for importing oil, is renewing imports from Iran as unlike imports from other countries it pays the Persian Gulf nation in rupees.
Oil Minister M Veerappa Moily has recently written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh saying India could save over USD 8.5 billion in foreign exchange this fiscal by increasing crude oil imports from Iran.
"About 2 million tonnes crude oil has been imported from Iran so far during the current financial year. An additional import of 11 million tonnes during 2013-14 would result in reduction in forex outflow by USD 8.47 billion (considering the international price of crude oil at USD 105 per barrel)," Moily wrote.
The plan is in response to Prime Minister's call to the ministry seeking USD 25 billion cut in oil import bill to narrow the current account deficit (CAD).
India, which last fiscal imported 13.1 million tonnes of oil from Iran, has been, since July 2011, paying in euros to clear 55 percent of its purchases of Iranian oil through Ankara-based Halkbank. The remaining 45 percent due amount was remitted in rupees in accounts Iranian oil company opened in Kolkata-based Uco Bank.
Payments in euro through Turkey ceased from February 6 2013 and now Iran is paid only in rupees. Rupee payment helps save foreign exchange outgo, thereby reducing CAD.